Poor but Happy: A Taste of Sicilian Summer

Humble ingredients elevated to sublime flavor

Caponata is a summer dish of cooked vegetables, generously seasoned with olive oil, vinegar, olives, and basil and served cold, as an antipasto, or hot with meat or fish. It is a classic example of Sicilian la cucina povera (poor people's food ), based on cheap, seasonal ingredients that are carefully seasoned.

Sicilian cuisine draws from the traditions of the many peoples that settled in this island in southern Italy. The Greeks brought a fierce love of grapes, white wine and olive oil. The Romans imported a fondness for red wine, cooked dishes, beef stews, lamb and goose, while the Byzantines left a combination of sweet and sour flavors. But the greatest contribution came from the Arabs. The ingredients introduced by the Silk Road caravans - rice, exotic spices, dried fruit, citrus, apricots, peaches and plums - came to distinguish the Sicilian kitchen from all other Italian cuisines.

It is the sweet-sour combination of olives (and/or capers and anchovies ), balsamic vinegar, and sugar that gives this dish its "Sicilian" flavor profile.


Ingredients (for 6):

1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 2-centimeter cubes

2 zucchinis, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1-cm. half-moons

4 tablespoons olive oil

4 garlic cloves, sliced thin

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

2 T. balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1 T. brown sugar

2 T. olive oil

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes

10 kalamata olives, halved and pitted

2 T. tomato paste

1/2 kilo cherry tomatoes, halved

2 red peppers, roasted, peeled and chopped

2 fresh tomatoes, grated

1/2 cup water 1/2 cup basil leaves, torn roughly


Heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Mix the first nine ingredients together and roast for 30 minutes. Mix in the zucchini and return to the oven for 10 minutes. In a pot, heat the remaining olive oil with the garlic and hot pepper and stir for 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste, then add the cherry tomatoes and roasted pepper. Stir, cook for 2 minutes. Add the roasted vegetables and the remaining ingredients and cook on high heat for 10 minutes. Adjust the seasoning.

Caponata and Red Drum


1 T. olive oil 1/4 green chili, sliced into rings

1 teaspoon lemon zest

Caponata sauce (see below )

1/4 cup water

6 red drum fillets, 150 grams each

Fresh basil


Heat the olive oil in a pan on medium heat. Add the pepper and lemon and saute for about a minute. Add the caponata sauce and water. Bring to a boil.

Lay the fish on top, skin-side down, sprinkle with basil and salt. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve with fresh bread.

Caponata & Parmesan Shakshuka

Ingredients (for 6 ):

Caponata sauce

Hot pepper flakes

1/4 cup water

8 eggs

Salt and pepper

Grated Parmesan


In a pan, heat caponata sauce in a pan. Add hot pepper and water and bring to a boil. Carefully break the eggs into the pan and season with salt and pepper. Cook on medium heat until the egg whites are set. Remove from heat, sprinkle on Parmesan and serve hot.